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40 Tampa Bay area residents on list of Madoff victims

NEW PORT RICHEY — Shirley Solomon first invested with Bernard Madoff more than 30 years ago on the advice of her brother, the accountant for the investment wizard.

A widow from New Port Richey, Solomon met Madoff at a 50th wedding anniversary party for her brother, Jerry Horowitz.

With the collapse of Madoff's investment firm late last year, Solomon lost $100,000 and Horowitz, dying of lung cancer in Palm Beach, was wiped out.

"He was a very nice man," Solomon, 77, says of Madoff. "Now, every time I see him on TV, I want to shoot him."

Solomon is one of 40 Tampa Bay area residents listed as clients of the disgraced Madoff, according to a new 162-page court filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

The list includes Madoff's relatives, prominent businesspeople like World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein, celebrities like Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax and broadcaster Larry King, and charitable institutions.

In total, it includes more than 2,000 people from Florida — second in number only to New York — and offers further evidence of the reach of Madoff's alleged Ponzi scheme.

Like so many other investors, Solomon had no clue anything was wrong until she read a small item inside the St. Petersburg Times. Neither did Horowitz, 80, even though his son-in-law, David Friehling, was Madoff's accountant when the scandal broke.

Each page of the list carries 84 single-spaced lines. Some customers are listed multiple times, presumably because they had multiple accounts.

The list does not say how much money the customers may have lost, and it also doesn't spell out their specific connection to Madoff.

Maurice Levinsky, 80, of Valrico admitted Thursday he lost his $600,000 life savings.

"My whole future was dependent on that money," said Levinsky who, along with losing his investments, had been paying a trustee to manage his phony account.

The list, compiled for a court-appointed trustee in the Madoff case, includes thousands of people and entities listed in the money manager's records as account holders during the 12-month period leading up to his arrest in December. It also includes scores of others who called an investor hotline set up by the Securities Investor Protection Corp.

While many of those listed likely lost money with Madoff, it is not clear that all of those on the list were victims, or that all of the victims have been identified.

Many of the people who lost money with Madoff did so through investment "feeder" funds, who turned that money over to the New York money manager.

Their names would not have been listed individually in Madoff's books, and would be included only in the court's list if they have stepped forward to make claims.

Prosecutors say Madoff, 70, admits he lost more than $50 billion belonging to investors. Defense lawyers say he has cooperated with authorities to help identify assets.

The customers include prominent people and institutions that already had been publicly revealed, such as the Wilpon family, owner of the New York Mets.

Others listed in the document include Madoff's wife, sons, brother and other relatives.

But most of the people on the list are more like Joel Toro, a 66-year-old retired car dealer from Tampa.

Toro first invested with Madoff in the 1960s, he said. He began withdrawing money after retiring in 2002. The money always came — until the fraud was exposed this winter.

Toro believes that besides losing his investment income, he may have to repay some of the dividends he already received.

For now, he has had to refinance his home mortgage to make ends meet.

"That was everything I had," said Toro, who believes he may have to eventually sell his home.

Madoff hasn't been indicted, but is being held under house arrest at his multimillion-dollar penthouse.

Times researchers Connie Humburg and Caryn Baird contributed to this report, which includes information from the Associated Press.

40 Tampa Bay area residents on list of Madoff victims 02/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 5, 2009 11:13pm]
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